The United States is best known for its whiskey production, particularly bourbon, but the country’s history is soaked in brandy and rum. Brandy came over with European immigrants, and grapes were planted on both coasts to sate thirsts. Rum originated among enslaved people in the Caribbean, but the British colonization of that region brought the spirit to New England in the 17th century. There, it became very popular among colonists, who eventually decided to make their own. By 1757, rum was the most popular beverage in the American colonies, with the average person consuming a staggering 3.7 gallons per year.
Shannon Tebay Sidle, a bartender at New York’s Death & Co, created the High Horse cocktail in a nod to colonial-era ingredients. She merges aged rum with a double dose of cherry, plus sweet vermouth and Angostura bitters. Kirschwasser, or kirsch, is a clear, somewhat bitter brandy distilled from sour Morello cherries and their stones. Cherry liqueur adds a kick of cherry sweetness to the mix.
“When I thought of George Washington and colonial flavor associations, my mind immediately went to the proverbial cherry tree,” she says. “The name was inspired not only by the many classical equine portraits of the nation’s first president but also the popular myth that the young George could not tell a lie.”
The High Horse combines Washington’s legendary cherry association with his known fondness for rum and other spirits (after his presidency, Washington’s Mount Vernon estate was the nation’s most prolific spirits producer.) Add the sweet vermouth and bitters, and you’ll stir up a cocktail that is essentially a cherry-forward Rum Manhattan. The former president would approve.
- 1 1/2 ounces aged rum
- 1/2 ounce kirsch brandy
- 1/2 ounce cherry liqueur
- 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- Garnish: Brandied cherry
Add the rum, kirsch, cherry liqueur, sweet vermouth and bitters into a mixing glass with ice and stir until well-chilled.
Strain into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with a brandied cherry on a skewer.